tv Democracy Now LINKTV August 10, 2012 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
08/10/12 08/10/12 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] >> from pacifica, this is "democracy now!" >"mitt romney started bain capital with money from families tied to death squads." that is the headline from the at the tempos to. heavy fighting in aleppo and damascus. >> syrian soldiers shot me. they attack us. we had to flee. gunfire began while as a home with my family. they're shooting everything, everyone. >> about one quarter million
syrians have left the country. saudi women compete for the first time in the olympics. >> i think it really shows there is progress on its way, that we were allowed to compete it shows more steps will come in this is just an amazing thing. for women in saudi arabia, i think it can be inspiring to not give up on your dreams because it can and will come true. >> but have the women been used as pawns? we will speak with helen jefferson lenskyj, forthcoming book and minky worder. all of that and more coming up. this is "democracy now!," democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. the justice department has announced it won't bring criminal charges against the financial giant goldman sachs or any of its employees for improper trading of subprime
mortgages during the financial crisis. a comprehensive senate report had called for an investigation of goldman in april 2011 after finding the firm had exploited unsuspecting clients by unloading subprime loans. goldman had aggressively marketed mortgage investments to clients at the same time that the firm was being -- betting against them. the actions helped goldman inflate the housing bubble and then make huge profits off the market's collapse. but on thursday after more than year-long investigation of its own, the justice department issued an unsigned statement announcing -- the securities and exchange commission also announced thursday it has abandoned its probe of goldman sachs's dealings in some $1.3 billion of subprime mortgage securities.
wisconsin's oak creek sikh temple has opened its doors for the first time since the shooting rampage that left six worshippers dead. thousands of people are expected of a local high school today for a public memorial honoring the victims. the civil rights activist jesse jackson was among those to visit oak creek on thursday to show his support. >> we are part of the same family. we are sharing our love and concerns. count on us to be part of this. we need to work together more closely over a long period of time here. none of us should be demeaned because of our appearance. it is not fair, it is not right. >> an colorado, attorneys for aurora movie theater suspect james holmes says the believe he is mentally ill.
the claim was made a pretrial hearing on thursday where his defense to requested more information to help assess his competency to stand trial. james holmes had been receiving psychiatric care at the university of colorado before the shooting occurred. the united nations food agency is warning rising prices fueled by historic drought could trigger a massive global food crisis similar to that of 2007 and 2008. the food and agriculture organization's food price index rose 6% in july after declining for the previous three months. the devastation of u.s. corn crop by drought increased maize prices by almost 23% in july, while dry conditions in russia helped push wheat prices up 19%. shifting weather patterns also lifted the global sugar price, which rose 12% from june to july after unseasonable rains in brazil hindered the sugarcane harvest. the u.n. says a potential global crisis is on the horizon if countries seek to restrict exports in order to control
domestic prices, policies that sparked deadly protests around the world five years ago. syrian government forces have ousted rebel fighters from a key district in the city of aleppo after days of fighting. the rebels said there were forced to pull out of the area after coming under heavy fire. in a statement earlier today, u.n. secretary ban ki-moon warned there -- "will be no winner in syria," only "the grim possibility of long-term civil war destroying syria's tapestry of interwoven communities." the number of syrians fleeing into neighboring countries remains on the rise. >> limit on, turkey, jordan and iraq are reporting increases in the number of refugees from syria, which occur merely reflects the number of people who have registered or in the process of being registered shows a total population of
146,667 people as of yesterday evening. we know that to be substantial refugee numbers in several countries, but these people have not yet registered. in turkey, the refugee population has exceeded 50,000 people with more than 6000 new arrivals reported this week. many of these are from aleppo and surrounding villages. >> that is the u.n. high commission for refugees spokesperson adrian edwards. there are widespread reports the u.n. has settled on veteran a jury diplomat lakhdar brahimi to replace outgoing syrian envoy kofi annan when he steps down at the end of the month. kofi annan announced his departure last week after months of fighting that flouted his multi step peace plan. susan rice said the obama administration will likely back a different u.n. mandate in syria following the inability of monitors to carry out their duties. >> as we have said repeatedly,
conditions, particularly the extreme use of violence and heavy weapons by the government do not permit the monitors or any monitors at this time who are unarmed to do the job they were sent to do. there is no cease-fire or cessation of violence for them to observe and report on. >> in afghanistan, a gunman wearing an afghan army uniform has shot dead three u.s. soldiers in southern helmand province. it was the latest in a series of deadly shootings by apparent members of the afghan forces against troops with the u.s.-led nato occupation. the shooting followed a suicide bombing that killed three u.s. soldiers and an aid worker in the eastern province of khadr. in mexico, the dead bodies of 14 kidnapped victims were found in an abandoned van thursday in the latest of a series of drug- related killings. it was at least the fifth incident in recent months to involve the exact number of 14 bodies, leading police to
believe criminal organizations are using the number of some sort of code. the 18th and the international day of the world's indigenous peoples was celebrated thursday with events across the globe. speaking in mexico, the amnesty international representative said indigenous people continue to face oppressive conditions throughout the americas. >> what amnesty international has found in recent years of that indigenous communities live in a situation of backwardness in comparison to the majority of places in the region, in regards to economic, social, and cultural access as well as access to education, health, housing, water, etc. we have found indigenous communities face those who do not respect their ancestral lands. >> the u.s. government has raised its prediction for the number of storms expected during the atlantic hurricane season, citing warmer than normal temperatures at the sea's
surface and wind patterns conducive to storms. the atlantic season has kicked off to a fast start with six named storms already. noaa has predicted 12 to 17 named storms as well as up to eight hurricanes, two or three of which could be major, before the season ends november 30. greenpeace activists facing harsher charges fribble treading u.s. government's lone site for handling and processing weapons- grade uranium last week. calling themselves the transform now ploughshares, the three reportedly cut through fences to paint slogans and throw blood on the wall of the nuclear-weapons plant in oak ridge, tennessee. the facility processes uranium for new hydrogen bombs and makes nuclear warheads. an indictment unsealed thursday, the three activists, including an 82-year-old nun, were charged with the aggregation of plant, which carries a maximum of 10
years behind bars. attorneys for george averment are arguing for the dismissal of second-degree murder charges under the state's stand your ground law. simmons defense team and supporters have cited -- the hearing is not expected for several months. york police department's launched a new citywide surveillance system that will allow police to monitor thousands of cameras around the city and instantly call up detailed information about surveillance target. the domain awareness system is connected to about 3000 television cameras stationed around york city with more cameras recorded the plant as well as several hundred license plate readers found it on police cars and stationed on bridges, tunnels, and streets. it's centralizes information including live video feed, maps, license plate readers, and city records, allowing police to gain instant access to information
about a suspect's arrest records. 9 to 11 calls associate with the suspect and related crimes that have occurred to a particular area. it also allows police to track cars associate with suspects and find out where they have been over the past several months. the system was developed by the nypd and software giant microsoft, in the city reportedly will get 30% of the revenue when the technology is sold to police forces around the country. those are some of the headlines. this is "democracy now!," democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we begin today with new screen republican candidate mitt romney is facing about his record at the private equity firm bain capital. the latest controversy surrounding bain concerns how romney helped found the company with investments from central american elites linked to death squads in el salvador. after initially struggling to find investors, romney traveled to miami in 1983 to win pledges of $9 million, 40% of bain's start up money.
some investors had extensive ties to the death squads responsible for the vast majority of the tens of thousands of deaths in el salvador beginning -- during the 1980's. the investors include the salaverria family, whom the former u.s. ambassador to el salvador, robert white, has previously accused of directly funding the salvadorian paramilitaries. in his memoir, former bain executive harry strachan writes that romney pushed aside his own misgivings about the investors to accept their backing. he writes -- for more, we're joined by ryan grim, bureau chief for the huffington post. he connects the dots in his latest three titled, "mitt romney started bain capital with money from families tied to death squads." ryan grim, welcome to "democracy now!" if you could carefully laid out the story, and set the stage in
el salvador in the early 1980's, what was happening there, the carnage. >> sure. in 1980, there was land reform instituted by the of salvador government that started to parcel up some of the farms, some of the coffee plantations and the other land holdings of the elite and it also nationalized the international coffee trade, so they did not nationalize the industry, but just before the export of it. so the oligarchs responded with a vicious and brutal campaign that included death squads and in the first year or two, until something like 35,000 people. over 10 years, killed about 70,000 people. the u.n. has since calculated about 85% of the killing was done by these right-wing death squads, so this is not one of
those dirty wars where both sides were equally culpable. the leader of this movement was very public about his support of death squads and that death squads were an important part of what they were doing. he would actually say the purpose of the death squads was ultimately to diminish the violence. if you could go into a village and go into a couple of houses and kill everyone in there, then it was in a message to the rest of the village they should not join the village, therefore there would be less of an uprising and the death squads would not have to kill everyone. that was the kind of macabre logic that lasted for slightly more than a decade in el salvador. >> one of the muslim victims of the best wads is arch bishop oscar romero, known as the voice of the voiceless. he was a prominent advocate to the poor, a leading critic of u.s.-backed salvadoran military
government. he was killed by members of a u.s.-backed death squad while delivering mass of a hospital chapel. i want to plan excerpt from the film "romero, >> that stars raúl juliá who played archbishop romero. >> i would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men in the army. brothers, each one of you is one of us. we are the same people. the farmers and peasants that you kill are your own brothers and sisters. when you hear the words of ayman telling you to kill, think, instead, in the words of god, thou shalt not kill. no soldier is obliged to obey an
order contrary to the law of god. in his name, and in the name of our tormented people who have suffered so much and whose limits cry out to heaven, i implore you, i beg you, i order you, stop the repression. >> that is a clip from the film "romero" of royal juliá who played oscar romero. oscar romero was gunned down march 21 bill-march 24, 1980. ryan grim, talk about how the connection is your story. >> he was assassinated the day after the clip you played, shot
through the heart while delivering mass. we since no conclusively that his assassination was ordered d'abussion read basically, his group was a vehicle for death squads. it has become more of a conventional latin-american right-wing party, but for its first several years, it was, quite simply, the political organization which was managing the death squads. mitt romney, in this context, knew very well what was happening in el salvador. the u.s. ambassador tom white, who you mentioned -- >> robert white critical s robert white, have publicly accused six salvadorans of
financing, two salaverrias, in miami. when was suggested by harry stricken that he go down to miami to raise money from the exiles there, he actually said to him, make sure these people are not connected to right-wing death squads. it is very clear he knew the context and he knew what was going on at the time, but he was having a sears the hard time raising capital for his new enterprise, bain capital. and his boss, bill bain, told him he could not use any of the investors or clients of bain and co., which was a successful consulting firm, because if it failed, he did not wanted to take everything else down with it. it has been reported in a number of places he fell to raise capital and traditional sources in the u.s. he flew into miami in mid 1984,
went directly to a bank and met with a number of these families who were involved with death squads and accepted, at the time, was a huge amount of money that amounted to 40% of the outside capital that he was able to raise for that initial fund. as a very strong said, the rolled over investments and certainly worth tens of millions of dollars in bain capital now predict just reading from your piece, ryan grim, when romley returned to miami in 2007 to launch another venture that needed funding, his first presidential campaign, romney said -- "i owe a great deal to americans of latin descent." can you talk about these men
like poma and their relationship to the death squads in el salvador. >> the poma family as one of the top families in el salvador. the or tightly interchange with arena. the salaverrias from which we mentioned earlier, two specifically were named by white as specifically financing death squads. another family originally invested in bain. elise four members of that, invested in bain. we only know the names of two of them. there's one man named orlando who the romney campaign, and nobody else, denies, was the leader of the death squad movement. there's no question about that. with the romney campaign has relied on is this a orlando
desolo was a black sheep of the family. the fact he was running death squads should not be smirch -- peace march the other two. however, what we found was one of the two names and francisco was connected in 1990 to the assassination to left-wing activists. there was a meeting held in guatemala that chris dodd, former senator from connecticut, moderated. he was tried to strike a peace deal between them. two were assassinated. the guatemalan government concluded the assassinations were committed by orlando desoler and two others. francisco de soler is still
alive. he denied it at the time and denies it today, but just the fact that the guatemalan intelligence services with lump him together with orlando and roberta d'abussion, just known as basically the two leaders of the death squad movement at the time, dramatically undermines the notion that the people involved with bain are somehow deeply disconnected or there is some line between the people involved in bain and the people who are funding and operating the death squads. >> ryan grim, mitt romney's response to your investigation into these allegations? >> what they did is sent me a paragraph of an article from the salt lake tribune in 1999 that read, "as was bain's policy,
that the family checked out as diligently as possible. then cover that and several links to drugs or other criminal activity." that is simply impossible to believe. these families were certainly connected to death squads. not romney told the "boston globe" in 1994, something along the lines of "we checked out the individual investors and made sure there were no obvious signs of criminal activity, but did not check out their in-laws and cousins." those are two inconsistent levels of diligence that romney is climbing to two separate papers. but if you take the one at "tribune," which was sent to me by the romney campaign, that is simply unbelievable. there is now impossible -- there is no way that some of you check out these families in the 1980's could come away convinced this money was clean. >> you quote robert white saying the salaverria family was
very well known. the salaverria family was very well known as backers of d'abussion read these guys for big money contributors, total backers of d'abussion including death squads." i want to read an excerpt from greg grenell's book for it is a professor of latin american history at new york university. he writes, the problem was the military groups have very little popular support ryan grim? >> i spoke with the pollster who
did a lot of work in the country in the 1980's for univision and now, coincidentally, became a pollster for hillary clinton and working with the obama campaign now. he knew d'abussion and new lot of the people who were involved with these death squads, and he said, and this is what i have heard from other people familiar with the community, that this is not something they would hide. like you said, they were persuaded the were freedom fighters and on the side of justice, and that if it meant you had to kill tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, those were evil people who were supported by castro who wanted to bring about tierney, etc., etc. everything they were doing was justified by that. mitt romney, he even hinted at that in his 2007 talk to the miami crowd when he came down to
raise money for his campaign. he said, not only did these people invest in may, but they taught me a lot. and what they taught me is that these guerrillas were horrible and the kidnapped one of their brothers and killed him and tortured miguel buenos. there's no question of atrocities were certainly committed by both sides, but you can see in the quote that romney is partly buying into this notion that the violence was justified. and he would not at all be alone in the republican party at that time or the democratic party. as you said, these death squads had the backing of the united states government. >> we are talking about, as you said, tens of thousands of people in 1989, the government
bestowed the salvadoran government, this note -- well, this was in 2009. remembering, 20 years ago, the six jesuit priests that were killed in 1989, then the killing of the four american nuns, all these part of the casualties, as you said, the salvadoran military and paramilitary, overwhelmingly doing the killing. interestingly, we started with oscar romero's death march 24, 1980. killed by the right-wing death squads in salvador. president obama visited honduras revisited el salvador and went to the grave of archbishop oscar romero. >> and that was an acknowledgement that what the united states and its allies in el salvador did in the 1980's was wrong. it was not exactly, but it was tantamount to an apology for all
of the death and destruction that was brought about in the name of anti-communism. archbishop romero is now known as one of the great heroes and martyrs of the 20th-century. at the same time that we're talking about romney's association, we ought to mention that the current occupant of the white house has or operates drones that kill people on a fairly regular basis. unfortunately, there is still no shortage of killing around the globe. >> and the question, the obama administration will make something of this initial bain investment capital, and will the romney administration -- will the romney campaign raise the issue of president obama and his kill list and the upgrading of drones that killing many in yemen and pakistan, and etc.
>> it will be interesting to see. if the obama campaign does anything with it, i would expect it would be done in the latino community to help drive support for obama there, because as you said, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of pri fiji's here today because of the violence from their -- of refugees who are here today because of the violence from there. the oligarchs also help to get romney's bain capital off the ground, could also help influence the vote. >> are these families still contributing to romney's present campaign? >> i did not find any currently doing so. romney had the strange piece of the phrase we went to latin america, calling them americans of latin american descent. i do not know they have become americans in the sense of the united states as america. if they have not gotten u.s. citizenship, they cannot donate
directly to his presidential campaigns. i searched a few names we do know, and they did not come up as donors to his presidential campaign. but as harry strachan said, they can continue to be significant investors in bain capital. throughout the 1980's and 1990's, bain capital went -- and extraordinary returns, something like 80% annual return over 20 years, which is just an absolutely astounding amount of money. if you apply that to $9 million initial investment, you get an absolute fortune. >> ryan grim, thank you for being with us, washington bureau chief for the huffington post for his latest story is, "mitt romney started bain capital with money from families tied to death squads." we will have a link on democracynow.org. next up, the syria-turkish borders.
>> "king of the hill." this is "democracy now!," democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we turn to syria where the associated press says syrian government forces are battling rebels outside the capital damascus and in aleppo, were fighting for control of your the country's largest city has raged for more than two weeks. several never has reportedly have been reduced to rubble as the regime of syrian president bashar al-assad wages a massive this -- ground assault to retake the cities. the assad government also appointed a new prime minister, wael nader al-halqi, following the defection of riyad farid hijab. syrian state news agencies reported the announcement in a brief announcement that did not refer to the defection but today, the british foreign secretary william hague announced a new commitment of almost $8 million in equipment
to the free syrian army, noting the control of assistance will not include any weapons. >> i have agreed in principle that our assistance to the opposition will include communications, equipment to political activists overcome the regime's communications blockade, and ensure the message is to the outside world. i cannot say anything that would risk identifying these people to the regime or reveal the precise nature of all of that assistance, but our help is likely to include mobile phone satellite phones and radio in equipment, which reviews to warn civilians up and pending regime assaults. we will help build local capacity among syrian doctors to collect forensic evidence of torture that can be used in future trials, and provide more turning to support the documentation by syrian activists of human rights violations and abuses. and to support to help syrian opposition groups to uphold human rights. i agreed in principle our assistance should include life-
saving protective equipment for civilians to help those caring not a vital work in the crossfire, and this could, for instance, include body armor. >> british foreign secretary william hague. every country in diplomat lakhdar brahimi is expected to be appointed as the new u.s.- arab league envoy for syria. if confirmed, brahimi would succeed former u.n. secretary general kofi annan, who resigned last week saying both sides particularly the syrian government, had built to respect his ceasefire plan but his six- point plan was never fully adhered to by either side and the violence has continued to escalate. according to activists, more than 20,000 people, mostly unarmed civilians, have died in the last 17 months of fighting and tens of thousands have fled the country. on thursday, almost two dozen people reached neighboring turkey as refugee flows continue to rise. about a quarter of a million syrians have left the country for neighboring states over the course of the conflicts. heavy fighting in aleppo has raised fears of a larger exodus.
the refugees are housed at nine camps in four turkish provinces along the syrian border. a syrian refugee in turkey said the opposition has not yet lost aleppo. >> i was in the district last night in the free syrian army has not withdrawn. i was fighting with them. we have killed one headed syrian soldiers and destroyed tanks. >> for more we're joined by reese erlich, a freelance foreign correspondent brit he joins us on the phone from antioch and the turkish-syrian border. welcome to "democracy now!" what are you reporting on? what is the scene on the border? what's the most recent interviews were with refugees from aleppo who told me about horrific carnage as a result of missile and artillery attacks on neighborhoods. apparently, the patter is if a neighborhood -- the pattern is if a neighborhood was the victim
of a takeover or a previous demonstration there, the civilian neighborhood is bombarded from the air or by artillery. it has forced a lot of people to leave. one of you an estimate was 250,000 just over the last week or so -- one u.n. estimates was to under 50,000 just over the last week or so >> can you describe the camps? >> the camps in turkey are what you traditionally think of as refugee camps with tents that provide electricity, sewage, food, basic supplies for the people. they have a few small businesses that operate out of the camps. from what refugees -- people sometimes have an image of refugees as these four bedraggled, starving people. but they are sophisticated people. lot of them have mobile phones. they communicate with their
relatives in jordan or lebanon where there are also camps. the consensus of the people i talk to, the treatment is better in turkey than syrians are getting another places. >> how many refugees would you estimate are there? >> the official figure prior to this most recent fighting in aleppo was 70,000. that is probably a low number. a lot of people can come in as tourists. if they do not go into the refugee camp, they're not considered refugees. clearly, people have fled the country and are not able to return. >> reese erlich, do you talk about the kurds? >> sure. the kurds are a non-arabic people of this region who have their own language and culture. they face discrimination and all the countries they have lived in historic fleet and today,
particularly in syria. there were some 300,000 syrian kurds were not even given citizenship until the uprising began in 2011. they face a lot of discrimination. they overwhelmingly are anti- assad. however, there are suspicious of the conservative islamist forces and fell under a new government if they were in power, the rights would not be respected, either. they have not been as actively participating in the uprising as other syrians, although, that has begun to change in recent months for it there have been some smaller villages and towns where kurdish guerrilla groups have set up checkpoints and otherwise started an onslaught against the government. >> can you talk about russia possible in all of this? >> russia, to its credit, in my opinion, has prevented u.s. and
europe from passing a resolution that would allow a military attack on syria, like the u.n., like the powers did using the u.n. resolution on libya. russia has its own interest in syria but it was a longtime ally going back to the cold war days. but they are buying into this bogyman by the u.s. that if only russia was not blocking the u.n. resolution somehow that would be the end up al-assad and democracy could come to syria. the point is, the people of syria are struggling themselves and russia's accents -- actions are not any more harmful than the u.s., which is supplying arms and supposedly non-lethal equipment to syria. i could not help but smile when the british official talked about providing body armor as being non-legal aid. come on, imagine that pakistan was providing body armor to the taliban in afghanistan what the
human cry would be from the u.s.? >> what are people calling for? what do you think should happen as you are there on the border of turkey and syria? >> well, it is a very, very difficult struggle. people of course are angry at the al-assad government. they do have faith it will get rid of him without thousand western interference. i spoke with many who think the u.s. should keep its hands off the situation. nobody has a crystal ball, but it looks like the will be fighting to continue for some time because neither side shows signs of giving up. >> reese erlich, thank you for being with us, freelance foreign correspondent on the syria- turkish border. when we come back, we'll talk about what is happening in london, the olympics. we particularly will look at women in the olympics. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
>> this is "democracy now!," democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. as we turn to the 2012 summer olympic games, where athletes from across the world are wrapping up the final days of competition at the olympic park in east london. one of the many records broken during the 2012 summer games was the number of female athletes participating from conservative islamic nations of qatar, brunei, saudi arabia. during the opening ceremony, the three saudi women who participated walked behind the man, not among them. while most runners make history for winning, sarah attar of saudi arabia made history for just entering the race. the stadium erupted in cheers when she completed the 800 meter heat on wednesday, even though she finished dead last. surely afterwards, sarah attar explained with the olympics meant for her and other saudi women. >> i think it really shows there is progress on its way, and that we were allowed to compete. it shows more steps are going to come and that this is just an amazing thing for women in saudi
arabia. i think it can be inspiring to not give up on your dreams, because it can and will come true. >> sarah attar, who has dual u.s.-saudi citizenship, was the second saudi woman to compete in the games following wodjan shaherkani, who almost didn't get to compete until judo authorities conceded to her wearing a headscarf. saudi arabia only allowed the women to compete after the international olympic committee, or ioc, threatened to bar the whole team unless women were included. on sunday, human rights activists called on olympic organizers to ban countries that discriminate against athletes due to their gender or sexual orientation. processing of one of the ioc's official hotel in london, the activists said the committee is failing to uphold the olympic charter mandate that all competing nations refrain from discriminating on grounds of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. peter tatchell explained his
opposition to including saudi arabia in the summer games. >> saudi women athletes are required to be accompanied at all times by mail guardians. in iran, segregated by basis of gender. women are required to address had it towed to cover their bodies. in more than 150 countries, it would be impossible for an openly gay athlete to be selected to their olympics squad because of the prevailing prejudice. for all of these reasons, we believe the international olympic committee should enforce the olympic charter and ban countries the perpetrate discrimination. >> the controversy over the saudi athletes is just one of the many ways in which women athletes and gender issues have come into focus in the olympics. about 45% of the 10,500 athletes competing are women, and for the first time in history, each of the participating country's teams include women. also for the first time, the u.s. olympic team is comprised
of more female athletes than male athletes. but in rapinoe, a star of the u.s. women's soccer team that won last night, publicly announced that she was a lesbian is estimated almost two dozen olympians are openly gay. while the games provided a giant leap for some women, many hurdles remain. but madmen and boxing considered mandating women to wear skirts, but backed off in the face of widespread criticism. experts a criticized the international olympic committee's method for determining who can compete as a woman because it involves invasive sex testing procedures that they say is based more on social standards than science. for more on the issues of the 2012 summer olympic games, we're joined by helen lenskyj, the author of several books on the olympics including, "olympic industry resistance: challenging olympic power and propaganda." she is a professor emeritus at the university of toronto. we're joined in new york by
minky worder who campaigned for saudi women to be able to participate in the olympics. she is author of, "the unfinished revolution: voices from the global fight for women's rights." welcome to "democracy now!" talk about the saudi women athletes. >> sarah attar and wodjan shaherkani are trailblazers in many respects. this is the first time in olympic history that women have been allowed to march behind the saudi flag, as you correctly point out, there were far behind the men. as much as we cheer these athletes for breaking barriers in saudi arabia, i think for saudi women, i think we always have to remember the millions of women back in saudi arabia to cannot participate meaningfully in sports. for example, saudi arabia is an out liar in the world, the only place where little girls are banned from taking physical education in schools. it is the only place where the
153 sports federations, not a single one has the women's section. saudi women are alone in the world, not allowed to compete in international sports competition. cannot even for dissipate in the islamic games that was posted in tehran. -- they cannot even participate in the islamic games that was posted in tehran. the momentum we have from the force in, really, saudi arabia to admit women and to allow them to compete this year, has to be immediately followed up on by pressure on the saudi ministry of education to allow women to play sports in the country and girls to play sports in schools. >> helen lenskyj, your response? >> i have very little faith in the symbolic value of women from these countries making an appearance in the olympics. at worst, there simply used as a
token by the sport administration and the political regimes in this country, and at best, they might be an inspiration to some girls and women. but again, i have limited faith in the idea of role models because, sure, you can never so- called olympic dream, but what good does it do you if you say a school that does not have adequate facilities for physical education and sports or you live in a committee that has very rundown inadequate supporting or recreational facilities. the so-called dream is not going to materialize. i think it is an outright lie to tell girls it well. >> some campaigners protesting late last month saying allowing women to wear the hijab is a violation of the olympic charter that demands neutrality in religion. >> i think it is important
status be taken in the west because i think in terms of multiculturalism, tolerance has been hijacked, so to speak, by itriarchs who used to wiswas te against them. but antislavery, cultural relativism did not come in the way that helped. nobody could say, it is in their culture the apartheid. that is not locate it similarly, how to deal could say, it is in their culture to keep their women as if their children for the rest of their lives, which is the case in some countries. this is not a statement against religion or culture, but a statement against protection of women. >> one of the protesters outside the ioc headquarters. >> human rights watch it takes the position we should not tell women were forced women to wear head scarves or force them into what to wear them to take them
off. if you insist women who are devout and wish to wear head scarves take them off, then you might exclude them from sports activities where they wish to play and clearly, wodjan shaherkani, was able to compete without injury in the judo competition and an accommodation was made for her to wear a head covering, and that enabled her to take part in the olympics. i think it is a better thing that women should be allowed to take part in be excluded on the basis of a head covering. >> what about the backlash at home in saudi arabia? a twitter campaign to get people to call the women athletes prostitutes? >> there was a really pernicious twitter campaign that was called "prostitutes of the olympics" almost as soon as the two women who were competing for saudia arabia were announced. interestingly, it was hijacked by supporters of sarah attar and
wodjan shaherkani to give support for them, but clearly, one of the -- just to return to the basics in saudi arabia, the real problem is legal gender segregation and the fact saudi arabia has one of the most abysmal women's rights records in the world. the true problem is the legal system and the government policy to create an environment where women do not have basic rights and freedoms, and you see that in a climate that is created where threats and intimidation against women are acceptable. >> helen lenskyj, the think saudi arabia should have been banned? >> i do not have any faith in these issues being resolved at the level of world sport. i think they are with pernicious in the fact the ioc is massive hypocrisy. it is an amoral, set elected
group of men and women, mostly men, who basically do not care about these human rights issues or their history of the last 20, 30, 40 years would have dramatically been different than what it is. >> in what way? >> they started with the 1936, what is now being called the not the games, where the ioc was quite willing to turn a blind eye to the beginnings of naziism in order to have the games in berlin. the games must go on, that is the moral of their approach to the sport. there have been countless examples sense where the basic human rights have been violated in host countries, and not just beijing from every host country, because of the ioc's requirement that protest be banned in or near olympic venues. host countries use that
requirement to extend the ban on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to huge areas and regions of their host city so that -- and we see this in london. we saw the critical mass cyclists getting cattle and harassed and treated inhumanely and basic human rights violated on a large scale a couple of weeks ago. >> there was a lot of attention now on the first saudi athletes, one of them fighting judo. what about another judo olympian, usa's first political mettle in juo went to kayla harrison i want to go to a clip of her. >> the feeling of accomplishment after you do something like that with your body, after you lift whenever amount of weight over your head and then squatted 50
times or what ever, it is awesome. what really keeps me going back is that the sense of accomplishment, but also i know without a doubt when i step on a map, there is not one of the anybody in better shape than me. there is not going to be anybody that has worked harder than me. it is a good confidence booster. >> kayla harrison is not only an olympic champion, but a survivor of a sexual abuse. he was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2007 to one count engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign land. he is banned for life by usa judo. the significance of kayla harrison coming out at the olympics? >> that was dramatic. sexual harassment, sexual abuse directed at young female athletes by coaches and young male athletes by coaches is
rampant. it is a secret that is definitely kept under wraps across the world. for her to make that public statement and for the world to know that was her background and the justice, in a sense, has been done, that really was very triumphant, a triumph for her but >> the u.s. women's soccer team has got a lot of attention. they won last night against japan but i want to turn to soccer star megan rapinoe recently went public about being a lesbian. she said was more difficult for male athletes than for women to be open about their sexuality. >> i don't look into it too much. i think it can be a bit dangerous, but everything i've seen so far has been extremely positive. i think people were wanting this and really welcoming. i think there's a lot of gay women in sports. it is widely known within the team. i think for men, unfortunately,
it is not the same climate in the locker room. >> your response, helen? >> shias right is more difficult for men, and even some of the top football players who have come out after their careers have been over have been admitted they would have been frightened to come out for fear of violence from their peers on the team. as for women, certainly, the climate, the acceptance has increased since i have started researching these kinds of issues about 25 years ago. but i would not say it is smooth sailing for all those in sports, and certainly, the have been a lot of athletes to have seen the need to stay in the closet. >> i want to also ask about gabby douglas, the remarkable 16-old olympic gymnast from the u.s. shoe's the first african- american gymnast and first woman of color in olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, in the first american gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team
competition at the same olympics. however, much of the media coverage of douglas seems to focus less on her athletic abilities, and more on, of all things, her hair. fox sports spoke about the controversy to the 1996 olympic gold medalist dominique dawes, who is also african american critics are self-esteem many times is wrapped up in our hair. i know a lot of african-american women, including myself, i did not worlike working out could is constantly sweating. my hair would be dry and brittle because of the relaxer. i did not want to get into pools because the claim is the chemical treated here, does not make a look so good whatsoever. that is why a lot of people have been attacking gabby douglas. it is that it is not on her achievement and performance, the appearance of her hair. but if she focused on her hair, she would not have made history. >> that was all of the gold medalist dominique dawes, who is also african american.
>> it is tragic that it focuses on their hair and not their amazing performances. just to return to what you open with the olympic charter, it clearly bans discrimination against women on the basis of race and i would like to say that as far as saudi women are concerned, there are women inside saudi arabia who are fighting very hard for the right to go to play basketball, go to a soccer team. they're wearing men's cleats, training far outside the city. they're taking great risks to play sports. when we cheer olympians in london, let's just remember all the people who do not have the privileges and ability to play sports, and let's do our best to change the government policy that is currently still banning women from sport's critics thank you for being with us this is an ongoing conversation. [captioning made possible by democracy now!]